This was a major news week for COVID, which is pretty noteworthy when there’s COVID news basically every week. If you can’t catch up on everything, I strongly recommend you catch up on that section, and after that I strongly suggest you eat some comfort food. And, because the news kind of sucks, my chocolate stash and I are here if anyone needs anything.
Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a phone call!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
This week’s Election Rejection news is a blast from the past that nobody asked for, but here we all are. Here’s what I have for you this week:
- Election Rejection Throwback. The big election rejection news this week was the release of notes from a December 2020 phone call between Trump and the Department of Justice. Spoiler: they’re just as bad as you’re expecting, with Trump telling the DOJ to “just say that the election was corrupt” and “leave the rest to me [and the GOP].” If you share my weird talent for deciphering handwriting, you can do a more prolonged wade around the cesspool, but I assure you, the notes don’t get better from there. (My ‘favorite’ less-publicized bits are the part where Trump tells them “you figure out what to do with Biden” and his note that “statistically, the election night it was a done deal” with zero evidence whatsoever.)
There are also some developments for Biden Rebuilding. Here’s what has happened:
- Infrastructure Updates. The big news on the Biden front is that the infrastructure bill–or a watered-down version of the original one, anyway–is in fact moving forward on the Senate floor after a filibuster-proof vote on Wednesday. Now we begin another tedious and likely lengthy amendment process, and ostensibly that will be followed by addressing additional agenda items via budget reconciliation. But let’s be honest; that will probably be a lengthy mess also.
Your New Normal:
- Social Supports Expiring. Several pandemic relief programs received attention this week because their end is imminent, and they provided valuable support on ongoing social problems. At the top of the list is the eviction moratorium, which did indeed expire on Sunday after a final round of hot potato between Congress and the President. Obviously, this means many people are at risk of losing their homes, both because of eviction of tenants and because of homeowners hit with foreclosures. In a few weeks, this will be followed by the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, though some states have curtailed those programs already–and are finding that this did not improve unemployment. And after that, in early October, student loan payments will become due again, though some Democrats are pushing to extend that benefit as well. Relatedly, Nancy Pelosi was in the news this week for arguing that Biden does not have legal authority to cancel student loans. However, that broad statement is laughably incorrect from a legal perspective–the President definitely can cancel loans in some instances, even if there’s an open question about how extensive that power is–and so I am not going to spend much time on it.
- State of the COVID-19. As I mentioned above, this is a major week for COVID news, and not in a fun, “pandemic’s over” kind of way. A CDC document leaked this week which concluded, based on unpublished new data, that the Delta strain was “as contagious as chicken pox” (read: extremely contagious) and may cause more severe illness for older unvaccinated people than previous strains. The document did confirm that vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness, and infection is rarer among vaccinated populations overall–vaccination reduces the overall risk of infection threefold. That said, infection is still very possible, and these infected vaccinated people can still infect those around them; in fact, new research suggests they might be as contagious as unvaccinated infected people. This idea is further supported by a scientific analysis of an outbreak here in MA, which found that three-quarters of those infected were vaccinated. It is also supported by the fact that Florida had its highest ever daily infection rate on Friday, surpassing even the bad old days before vaccines were available. All of this information contextualizes the CDC’s decision this week to reverse prior guidance on indoor mask use and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in COVID hotspots. It also makes it particularly galling that House Republicans are already refusing to comply with new Congressional indoor mask mandates.
- Vaccine Mandate Trends. The one silver lining of the news above is that it appears to be accelerating the vaccination mandate trends, as more and more companies exercise their legal right to require vaccination or a hybrid mandate/testing model for their employees. Among the entities now requiring employee vaccination: 1) Google; 2) the federal government; 3) over 600 colleges; 4) Walmart; 5) Disney; 6)Facebook; and 7) Netflix. It seems likely that we can expect this list to continue to grow.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this dog library and a more consistently improved government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me photos of your mask use!